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Natalie Isaacs Co-founder and CEO of the 1 Million Women Campaign, and Al Gore ambassador

07 March 2011

"I've always spent my time creating memory anchors. We do it as a family. I love experiences, and that you can turn them into something is the ultimate joy.

"Our goal is to inspire 1 million Australian women to take practical action on climate change by cutting I million tonnes of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas pollutant causing global warming. And we want to do that by the end of 2012."

Natalie Isaacs has wild red hair and the passion to match. She has expressive capable-looking hands and, most certainly, she has green thumbs. These and much more are important in the make-up of a woman who is committed to making a difference on climate change. An issue, she notes, which has taken a battering in the aftermath of Copenhagen (climate change conference in 2009), making the environment in which she works much tougher but no less important.

We are sitting in the central city law offices of a friend of Natalie's who provides space for her (pro bono) to run the web-based environmental campaign,

The interiors are workman-like: a little sterile, ubiquitous. They are the antithesis of the woman in front of me and her dauntingly large and completely engrossing passion to inspire 1 in 8 Australian women to cut 1 tonne of carbon dioxide in their daily lives... all by 2012.

Natalie is a specialist in marketing to women, keeping them engaged and interested, loyal and passionate. For 22 years she had her own eponymously named cosmetics company, selling product through beauty salons while also manufacturing products that sold on the shelves of large retail outlets.

Cause and Effect

In mid 2006, she underwent an epiphany.

Natalie was as aware as most of us for the need for action on climate change. Media coverage and public awareness were riding a wave. Her husband Murray Hogarth, a sustainability consultant, was writing a book and had enlisted her help to edit it. She lived on Sydney's northern beaches and a friend, Paul Gilding, whose company Easy Being Green needed guidance with sales techniques, had also approached her for her business experiences. But the real catalyst came sitting in a room with 200 people discussing energy efficiency.

"Students, parents, members of the community, everyone in the room seemed to be contributing to climate action except me. The very moment I came to this realisation, Paul's wife asked me if I would join with her starting a non-profit organisation called Climate Coolers. I could utilise my strengths in marketing, packaging up an idea and selling it, and contribute as a business person. Our aim was to reach women like myself who, for whatever reason, were disengaged, and engage them."

"It just made sense."

The vision was big and the campaign was finally launched in the middle of 2009 with Federal Government backing and some impressive ambassadors. From Boost Juice's Janine Allis, and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh to foodie icon Margaret Fulton, business woman and activist Wendy McCarthy, Janet Holmes a Court, Sam Mostyn and Penny Wong, the list is comprehensive and inspiring.

Touching women

By mid March 2010, 16,500 women were taking action. Natalie wants to grow that to 100,000 by year's end.

"It's all about the journey and empowerment. On the site there's the activity centre. There are about 50 activities with carbon values attached to each and you choose to do them over a month, a year and to help you along the way you can update your progress as you go. The 1 tonne is a catalyst to do more. You can't lobby anyone let alone find your voice until you've taken ownership. It's important to recognise that only when we're involved ourselves do we do more – become advocates, lead.

"We're not selling a product here. We're about passion and making a difference and that doesn't cost anything. The message is: action can come before awareness. If you just get started and act there's no doubt that it will take each and every member off on some path that brings about change. You can't over analyse, over think. You need to do. Because when you do, doors open."

Accessibility through the web site is an important component of the campaign and Natalie acknowledges its value but is quick to point out the whole thing will fail if they are not physically active in the community.

"I understand that the campaign won't save the Planet but it's a part of a greater mix of things that need to happen if we are to save the Planet. I believe you need to make things personal. The bigger something is the harder it is to get your head around, and that leads to disengagement and inaction. The campaign message is about realising it is about 'me and my family', about being in control of what I can do on a day-to-day level. It allows you to qualify and quantify what you do for the environment, making it part of your life and not some divorced concept too huge to handle."

Get visible

The focus for 2010 is to become visible and active in the community. A grant from the Office Of Women to role out a series of events will help with this. There are five events to deliver nationally, two of which have been a great success already touching more than 1200 women. There are also plans for a stand at Sydney's Royal Easter Agricultural show in April. (Within minutes of putting the idea out to members, Natalie received over 140 volunteers to people the stand.)

"There's something incredibly powerful about women joining forces to fight causes. We've had enough experience. As we grow as a movement I know these women will want to stay involved because they're a part of something important and special and they own it.

"It is the same when it comes to financial literacy. I mean I am no accountant but you have to take control and be part of the process."

Plans for the future include going global and 1millionwomen has been purpose built to achieve that end with the women of Australia leading the way. Natalie's belief in the propensity for women to network, making about 70 per cent of consumer decisions around the home and forming 53 per cent of the electorate, has led her to view this as a market with incredible influence.

"One thing I learned in business is you have to be committed to a direction. It's easy to be seduced by another because there's maybe a quick buck to be made or something. What I found with the cosmetic company is I had this brand that did well and then someone said, well, what about doing this, and off we went in that direction and we couldn't really support both. I took my eye off the ball on the successful brand. It suffered, lost sales and I had to refocus and grow it up again. It was a lesson learned and I keep it with me in all I do."

Key Achievements

My family and spending weekends with them.

1millionwomen campaign.


Personal Passions

Getting the 1 millionwomen campaign to where it is now.

Getting corporate Australia involved in the campaign process.

Having a dream and pushing through to the next step.

Useful links